The Heisman Trophy: Fifteen Years As College Football's Albatross

By Reid Kerr

In recent memory, college football's highest honor has come with some baggage that certain honorees have had trouble hauling to the next level. With that in mind, let's look back at the last fifteen winners and see how the NFL has treated the best college player in all the land.

2003 – Jason White. TBA. It's only fitting that this year's trophy winner was the candidate with the least chance of making it in the pros. White is a good example of what's right with college football, a guy with two knee injuries already behind him who's willing himself and his team to the National Championship game. Or at least one of the National Championship games.

2002 – Carson Palmer – TBA. Palmer has avoided the Heisman curse by simply not playing. There are two ways to look at his career so far. Either he's avoided the same fate as Akili Smith and David Klinger by being able to sit on the bench his rookie season with the Bengals, or he's not good enough to get any playing time over Jon Kitna. You make the call.

2001 – Eric Crouch – Bust. Every year, Crouch celebrates the anniversary of winning the Heisman by retiring from the NFL again.

2000 – Chris Weinke – Bust. Weinke, who was 47 when he graduated from Florida State, was anointed the franchise quarterback of the Carolina Panthers and demoted so fast that Chris Berman didn't even have time to make up a nickname. Before he could even lose his job to Jake "The New John Fourcade" Delhomme, he lost it to Rodney "The New Vince Evans" Peete.

1999 – Ron Dayne – Bust. Dayne has become a human cheeseburger, lodged in the aorta of the New York Giants running game. If they could have gotten a waiter's attention and a bag of Cheez-Doodles for Dayne anytime in the last two years, they'd have dumped him.

1998 – Ricky Williams – Boom. Granted, it took him a while. The New Orleans years are but a memory, as is the Mike Ditka comeback and the wedding dress picture. Williams has finally turned into the kind of player you'd want to take, although perhaps not sacrifice your entire draft class for.

1997 – Charles Woodson – Boom. Relationship with soon-to-be-former Raiders coach Bill Callahan aside, Woodson is a consummate pro.

1996 – Danny Wuerffel – Bust. After six years in the NFL, Wuerffel has at least learned that sometimes no job at all is better than working for Daniel Snyder.

1995 – Eddie George – Boom. You can talk about how he's getting old, but George has made a career, although perhaps not a long one, out of a strong work ethic and resilience.

1994 – Rashaan Salaam – Bust. Are you kidding? Salaam might even count as a bust in the XFL.

1993 – Charlie Ward – Boom. Ward falls into the category of "smart guys." He didn't bother to go to the NFL, he went straight to the NBA where he's been getting paid for ten years without getting nailed by a blitzing linebacker yet.

1992 – Gino Toretta – Bust. The patron saint of Heisman trophy busts. Toretta was drafted by the Vikings, never threw a pass for them and faded quickly. To this day, Toretta's name is mentioned whenever coaches need to get the attention of their players.

1991 – Desmond Howard – Bust. He was a Super Bowl MVP, but not for the team that drafted him. Howard's career highlight was striking the pose in the Ohio State end zone.

1990 – Ty Detmer – Bust. Detmer never got close to his BYU numbers after being drafted in the ninth round. Give him credit, though, Detmer is still in the league after twelve seasons. And there's no better loved position than backup quarterback.

1989 – Andre Ware – Bust. Four seasons with the Detroit Lions does not an NFL career make, especially when he was kept on the bench by Erik Kramer.

It is interesting to note that of the previous five winners, (Barry Sanders, Tim Brown, Vinny Testaverde, Bo Jackson, and Doug Flutie), three are still in the NFL. Given modern medicine, Bo Jackson probably could have continued his career if his injury occurred five years later. And let's face it, Barry Sanders could dress out and lead Detroit in rushing this weekend if he really wanted to.